Still Struggling to Make Ends Meet 2022: A report on living wages in Washington State

Over the last two years, the Covid-19 pandemic has triggered many changes in American life, but workers in Washington State and across the country continue to face difficulties making ends meet. Hazard pay premiums for essential workers have temporarily boosted worker pay, but inflation through February 2022 was at its highest rate since 1982, erasing many of these wage gains. Although average wages in Washington have grown more since the Great Recession than the national average, wages for most workers have still not kept pace with the cost of living, including the wages of essential home care workers.

The unique conditions of the Covid-19 pandemic have provided special challenges for our Job Gap methodology. Typically, large changes in costs happen over a period of years and are captured in the trends of state and federal datasets. However, March 2020 brought rapid changes to financial and job markets around the country. Oil prices plunged so far they briefly went into the negatives for the first time, and rents plunged in central cities as pandemic restrictions continued and some households moved out of central cities. As various waves and restrictions hit different regions, prices changed dramatically over periods of months rather than years.

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